New law to bring $127 million in jobless benefits to state

March 23, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz | Baltimore Sun reporter

The Maryland General Assembly passed a measure today that changes unemployment benefits so that the state can tap into nearly $127 million in federal stimulus money.

The money will arrive as soon as Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who pushed for the changes, signs the bill into law. It is emergency legislation, so that could happen quickly.

This morning, the House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a plan the Senate had unanimously signed off on earlier this month. Lawmakers increased the number of people who can tap into benefits by shifting the work period reviewed when calculating claims.

That will cost employers an estimated $20 million extra each year, but in a compromise with business groups designed to offset the new costs, lawmakers agreed to reduce other benefits, including eliminating sick claims and decreasing the amount of money an unemployed person can make while collecting benefits.

Although O'Malley originally pushed the idea as a way to reduce the amount of unemployment insurance that employers must pay this year, the business groups convinced lawmakers to stockpile the federal money in the state's trust fund, which they said will help employers bring down rates in a meaningful way as the recession lifts.

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